Governor Chibuike Amaechi
Chuks Okocha and Onwuka Nzeshi
The governors of the 36 states of the federation have set up a seven-man committee to harmonise any discordant views that could threaten the ongoing constitution amendment process.
The committee, whose membership comprises Mr. Chibuike Amaechi (Rivers), Babatunde Fashola (Lagos), Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu (Niger), Peter Obi (Anambra), Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom), Sule Lamido (Jigawa) and Isa Yuguda (Bauchi) will work with the National Assembly, which is superintending the exercise.
The governors are sharply divided on the formation of state police units, onshore-offshore oil dichotomy, and calls for the abrogation of the derivation principle, which entitles oil-producing states to 13 per cent of the total revenue derived from the exploration of hydrocarbon resources, among others.
The decision to raise the committee was taken after a meeting late Wednesday night between the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) and the National Assembly Committee on Constitutional Amendment, headed by Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu.
On its part, the House of Representatives Ad hoc Committee on the Constitution Review has received 200 memoranda from the public on issues that deserve attention during the exercise.
A communiqué issued in the early hours of yesterday at the end of the governors’ forum’s meeting, and read by Amaechi, said the committee was set up to harmonise the governors' positions on all controversial issues.
The disagreement among the governors came to the fore at the meeting on Wednesday night as some of the governors intermittently interrupted Ekweremadu who was briefing them on the amendment, especially to show their displeasure on the views he was expressing.
Sources told THISDAY that Ekweremadu, who led the National Assembly Committee on the Constitution Amendment to the meeting, briefed the governors on what was considered the major issues in the constitution amendment exercise.
THISDAY gathered that Ekweremadu, who presented and defended the position of the National Assembly on the need for a decentralised police force and devolution of powers, drew the ire of Northern governors who opposed him over the issue of state police.
According to a source at the meeting, “The deputy senate president in his briefing to the governors spoke on the need for state police. He enumerated the benefits and the disadvantages of state police.
“He said that the governors would not abuse the operations of state police because they have merely four years or at most eight years in office. But as he continued to speak, the Northern governors started becoming uncomfortable with his briefing.
“The deputy senate president in his briefing reminded the governors of what happened during the ‘third term’ plot which led to the abandoning of other noble clauses in the 2006 constitutional amendment exercise.
“He said that there were noble and genuine clauses in the 2006 amendment, but these were abandoned when the amendment for a third term in office for former President Olusegun Obasanjo failed and all the proposals contained in the bill failed with it.”
It was gathered that the governor of Benue State, Mr. Gabriel Suswam, and his Kano State counterpart, Dr. Rabiu Kwankwaso, challenged Ekweremadu on his stand on state police.
The source added that when Suswam wanted to challenge Ekweremadu, the Edo State Governor, Adams Oshiomhole, intervened, saying, “We know your views on state police.”
He said it was after this that Kwankwaso took on Ekweremadu on his views.
It was learnt that Amaechi, who is the chairman of the governors’ forum, sensing the mood of his colleagues, especially those from the North, mooted the idea of the committee to harmonise the positions of the governors on the state police and devolution of powers, which was approved by the meeting.
The forum also set up a committee on peer review and good governance, which has Kano, Sokoto, Kwara, Adamawa, Delta, Rivers, Cross River, Enugu Zamfara and Osun States as members.
A committee on environment to deal with issues of flooding and the environment in the country, and another to organise a security conference was also set up by the forum.
While the members of the committee on the environment comprise Bayelsa, Kebbi, Yobe, Kogi, Imo, Plateau and Oyo States, members of the committee to organise a security conference consist of Benue, Edo, Kaduna, Ekiti, Borno and Abia States.
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives Ad hoc Committee on Constitution Review said it had received about 200 memoranda on the amendments to the 1999 Constitution.
The memoranda cover a wide range of legal and constitutional issues, including electoral reform, independent candidacy, political party issues, revenue allocation, fiscal federalism, devolution of powers, judicial independence, the immunity clause, the Land Use Act, police powers, local governments and creation of states.
Deputy Speaker of the House and Chairman of the ad hoc committee, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, said yesterday that the House would soon embark on a series of consultations with the citizenry across the 360 federal constituencies to get their input into the exercise.
Ihedioha spoke at a meeting with representatives of the Nigerian Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE), Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), and the Alliance for Credible Elections, a civil society group.
Ihedioha explained that the meeting, tagged “Peoples’ Public Sessions”, was in response to pressure for a more participatory, inclusive and transparent review of the constitution.
It is also aimed at responding to the demands of Nigerians for a bottom-up approach to constitution making.
“It will take the process and issues to the Nigerian people in their villages, communities and towns across Nigeria. The committee will issue a template on the rules of engagement and matters to be discussed at the various sessions.
“However, the Peoples’ Sessions will also elicit directly from the people, additional issues they would like to see addressed by the legislature as it seeks to amend the constitution,” he said.
According to him, the intention of the House is to bequeath to Nigerians a truly people’s constitution.